As California elections administrators, we feel it is important to clarify why we support Assembly Bill 840. (“Here’s how Jerry Brown can help protect vulnerable people, voting integrity and local control,” Editorials, Sept. 29.) For nearly 50 years, county elections officials have conducted hand counts of ballots to ensure the accuracy of machines that count ballots. This tally includes ballots tabulated by a machine in 1 percent of a county’s precincts.
The tally must include ballots from every county contest. This ensures every ballot type is audited. In recent years, state law has been amended to provide counties options for including vote-by-mail ballots in the manual tally.
A recent court ruling created ambiguity for administrators. This has the potential to create a rushed timeline for counties to complete the important manual tally, and limit options for trouble-shooting issues that may arise. The manual tally often takes counties two or three weeks to complete.
AB 840 would resolve this ambiguity and preserve the integrity of the process used by elections officials. The bill does not change the number of ballots a county will include in manual tallies. A manual tally is one of a number of audits and safeguards that local election officials use to ensure the integrity of each election. This bill does not hamper that in any way.
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The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials worked to craft workable language included in AB 840 in January 2017, and the Legislature passed it without a no-vote.
AB 840 includes an important provision for voters who forgot to sign their vote-by-mail ballots. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, voters could provide their missing signature by electronically submitting it to their county election official within eight days of an election, ensuring their ballot would be counted.
Election integrity is a top priority and that includes effective and efficient audits. As California’s chief elections officials, we respectfully ask the governor to sign AB 840.